If you’re the sort of person who likes your car to talk to you, Ford may be offering you one better. The car maker has announced that its Sync Services in-car entertainment, information and connectivity solution will be offering the option of a live operator in addition to its usual voice-activated automated system.
Ford’s Sync Services offer customers on-demand access to traffic, news, sports, weather, horoscopes, stock quotes, and movie listings as well as business searches and turn-by-turn directions, however today the feature is fully driven by an automated voice recognition solution – sort of like an in-car IVR.
Once the live operator feature is added, it won’t be the first in the U.S. auto marketplace. Infiniti’s new Personal Assistant uses a full-time live operator, reports Motor Trend. Ford will, however, be the first to offer a choice of either automated system or live call center agent.
The new Operator Assist feature, which is in the process of beta testing (Ford has not yet said when the feature will be given a wide release) was implemented by Ford in response to customer request.
According to the company, Ford drivers “asked for additional assistance in situations where their voice request was not understood,” said David Gersabeck, product manager of SYNC Services, said in a statement announcing the feature. “If you want the most reliable user experience, enabling alternative methods for customers to access information will increase success.”
To start, the Operator Assist feature will be available for business searches and directions – operations that Ford says make up about 70 percent of all Sync Services use. Customers will be able to choose either turn-by-turn directions sent to the car, a text message or a regular telephone connection to the business.
So what if you’ve already got Sync Services in your car? Ford told Motor Trend that no additional software or hardware will be required for Operator Assist: it will use existing vehicle sensors and GPS technology. During the beta test trial phase Operator Assist is being offered free to current Sync users.
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Tracey Schelmetic is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Tracey's articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Jennifer Russell